Specialty care workers live legacy of Good Samaritan Society

Minnesota location keeps evolving to care for next community needs

A woman carries a tray of potatoes in an industrial kitchen at Good Samaritan Society - Specialty Care in Robbinsdale, Minnesota.

Providing unique services — it’s what Good Samaritan Society – Specialty Care in Robbinsdale, Minnesota, has been doing faithfully for decades.

“We’ve just always been a mix of all kinds of things. ‘Specialty’ kind of summed it up, that we’re specializing in whatever. I’d say love,” nursing supervisor Gwen Johnson, RN-BC, says.

Johnson is coming up on 42 years of loving residents, many in long-term care with Huntington’s disease.

“If you’re not going to care, you’re not going to last here long,” Johnson says. “People will say it’s like having Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and ALS all in one except they really don’t have dementia like they don’t forget things. They have cognitive decline.”

Inclined to make a difference, Johnson has been filling a need in the Huntington’s unit since 1996. Before that, she helped residents going through alcohol and drug treatment.

“Who’s going to take care of Huntington’s? They fall. They have behaviors. (Others say) yeah, we can’t manage that. Well, we can. A lot of times it’s about getting to know somebody and who they are. Is that Huntington’s or? Don’t worry about the disease all the time. Take care of the person,” Johnson says.

Workers are ‘a second family’

Helping cook up that personalized care is a lot of experience.

“I tell people I started at five years old so they can’t guess my age,” cook Barbara Rasmussen says.

Rasmussen is celebrating 47 years with the Society in October.

“We all get along. It’s like a second family,” Rasmussen says.

Cheryl Arthur, a fellow cook, is scooping up 42 years in September.

“My grandmother had a restaurant. When you’re a teenager, you don’t really want to work for your grandmother, but I guess I was kind of forced to be there to help my grandma,” Arthur says.

From Grandma’s downtown Minneapolis diner to this kitchen, Arthur, and five of her teammates in Robbinsdale, started young and never left.

“Taking care of the residents is pretty important. Some of them have families, some don’t,” Arthur says. “I think they enjoy helping people and they enjoy doing something for someone. Making someone’s life better.”

‘All worked together’ through COVID

On the job for just a few months, their administrator Kali Blaeser knows she’s in good hands.

“I think it’s a true testament to not only this building but the Good Samaritan Society and how well they take care of their employees that we have people that have worked here for so long,” Blaeser says.

Or even, good paws.

“Ginger has been here like 12 years,” Blaeser says about a co-worker’s dog who visits often.

“They’ve all been really supportive and made comments of ‘just wait until you’ve been here for 20 years.’”

A COVID-19 outbreak her first week shined a spotlight on her team’s chemistry, a team that also offers therapy and rehabilitation as well as men’s behavioral care.

“I didn’t even have to tell anyone what to do. This person knew to go here and we were setting up isolation kits. It was a long hard day, but it was really nice to see how quickly they welcomed me and just to see how they all worked together,” Blaeser says.

100 years ‘something to celebrate’

All are welcome here in the Twin Cities where the Society’s 100 years of treating everyone like someone, no matter what, carries on to this day.

“Yes, we are a Christian organization but we’re a lot. Christians accept everybody. That’s what we are,” Johnson says.

Especially those in need at this nationally recognized Huntington’s care community.

“Just by some unfortunate happening that these people are here. Then if that was your mother. I always get emotional. If that was your mother or that was your child, if that was you in that chair,” Johnson says. “I love these people.”

A passion for others that will hopefully continue for another century.

“100 years of good service is something to celebrate,” Arthur says.

Rasmussen adds, “Happy anniversary! Keep going strong.”

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Posted In Behavioral Health, Rehabilitation & Therapy, Sanford Stories, Senior Services, Specialty Care